Diving headfirst into photography without much, or more accurately, no knowledge is something I did without any misgiving. Looking back, I suppose I’d make different decisions today— perhaps assisting for notable photographers for several years, for one. Instead, however, I went forth with my own offbeat way to educate myself. I had a slew of ideas in my head of images I wanted to create, but bringing them to completion— that was the riddle begging for resolve.
So, what did I do? I sent emails to my favorite photographers who were successfully shooting in my preferred genres: editorial and music and asked if they could advise.
Chris Buck was the first photographer to get back to me.
A pretty severe snowstorm was approaching on the day that I was to meet up with Chris at his studio in Manhattan, but that wasn’t going to stop me. When I arrived, Chris was eating cereal (Lucky Charms, I think), and he offered a bowl to me. I declined, but regret it now— it would be fun to write about eating cereal with Chris Buck, but instead I can only write that I rebuffed his offer.
Chris and I dissected my work that I’d brought along for him to review, which consisted of 10 black and white portraits— at the time, I didn’t feel my own previous attempts at color photography translated to art. Chris shared with me a stack of his own color work—his photos were extraordinary and translated to art quite well. He talked to me about the importance of creating and shaping light and using different color theory techniques to enhance a photograph.
I left feeling mighty empowered.
Several months later, when the weather turned warmer, I set out to produce my first color portfolio piece. I turned to my friend, Carolyn, who was a music promoter at the time, and asked if she’d like to be the subject for the shoot. She agreed. I then hired Linda Fung, a hair and makeup artist whose credit appeared on many tear sheets belonging to a photographer I worshipped. Once Carolyn and Linda were on board, I started to conceptualize— since this was to be my first color portfolio piece, I wanted to create something primal. My idea was to create a shot of Carolyn crawling out of a wooded area, covered in mud.
I spent nearly the entire next day at Forbidden Planet in Old City sourcing the perfect vintage slip dress— guided by the expert eye of the shop’s owner, Johnny Columbo. Afterwards, I tracked down a greenhouse selling organic potting soil, since I rationalized that that was the cleaner way to slather my friend in mud.
The actual photo shoot was fairly simple: After hair and makeup, we drove to a quiet street with woods on either side. To apply the mud, I watered down the potting soil in a bucket and flung it on Carolyn using several different sized paint brushes, taking special care to avoid her face.
I shot these images around 3:00 in the afternoon, and since I didn’t want to capture any light source other than what I was introducing, I used a fast shutter speed and lit Carolyn with a single Lumedyne.
There was a famous quote that was framed and hanging in my apartment on the day that I headed out to create these images. I remember glancing at it on my way out the door.
“Be brave enough to suck at something new.”
Shot with a Hasselblad 501 CM